By ANDY BARNS

Anti-vaccination sentiment has always been a fringe problem, based on ignorance of how vaccines work, as well as a disproportionate skepticism of medical professionals. Recently, however, there have been several reports of anti-vaccination and far-right groups attempting to disrupt the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.

In Los Angeles, on Saturday, Jan. 30, anti-vaccination protesters managed to halt vaccine distribution at Dodger Stadium for nearly an hour. [1] Dodger Stadium is one the largest vaccine distribution centers in the country at the moment. Protesters were carrying signs such as “Save your soul, turn back now” and yelling at recipients that the “coronavirus was not real.” Thankfully, no appointments were canceled.

In the Netherlands, a similar attack on health-care rights occurred when hoodlums torched a COVID-19 testing facility in protest of the country’s strict lockdowns. [2] Its clear that science skepticism and attacks on health-care rights are an international issue.

Since the start of the pandemic, several “re-open the economy” protests have occurred, particularly in 2020 at the height of the lockdowns in the U.S. These anti-virus protests have seemingly attracted anti-vaxxers as well, giving them an opening to spread their skepticism of modern medical science. [3] Recent outbreaks of measles [4] (a disease rarely discovered in humans anymore due to the use of measles vaccines) have spiked, demonstrating the harm that anti-vaccination conspiracists are capable of.

There are plenty of reasons to be a skeptic of the government, of the Democrats, and the for-profit, privatized medical system. However, vaccines and their distribution are not one of them.

How vaccines work

Viruses are “organisms” of a kind (they don’t re-produce on their own, and are entirely parasitic on the cells of other organisms) that can invade larger organisms like humans, cats and dogs, livestock, and even plants. Most organisms have natural immune defense systems in place to protect themselves against infection, though it isn’t always perfect. Infection is what happens when smaller organisms, like bacteria or viruses, invade and re-produce inside a larger organism, like a human. Infection can lead to disease—producing the outward symptoms that can make you feel bad, and can sometimes even kill you.

Vaccines help the body’s natural defenses prepare for and fight infection from viruses when they occur, stopping the infection in its tracks. They do this by means of a component called an antigen, which is typically a protein that is identical to one borne by the targeted pathogen, which can stir the immune system to retaliate against it. Some vaccines do this by introducing a weakened version of the virus into the body. Others, such as the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines against COVID, contain an mRNA molecule (genetic material that cells read to make proteins) that mimics the genes of the pathogen. The vaccine particles fuse to our cells and stir the cells to build spike proteins. Antigen-presenting cells will read those spikes and stir the body’s immune cells to mark the virus for destruction.

As a result, though the body may experience infection in the future, the body won’t develop the symptoms of disease, due to the fact that its natural defenses will crush the invader organism before it spreads too far. This, of course, also makes it much harder for the invader organism to spread from host to host. The experts have more comprehensive information [5].

Why this matters

To defeat the pandemic and save lives, a majority of the population will need to be vaccinated. Infectious diseases expert Dr. Anthony Fauci says that, in acknowledging the new mutant strains of COVID, at least 80 to 85 percent of the population will need immunity from the virus for the pandemic to end. [6] Combined with strict mask-wearing protocols, comprehensive PPE at essential workplaces, and relief pay for working families affected by lockdowns, it is hoped that widespread vaccination could end the lockdown and safely return life to more “normal” conditions. Of course, the detrimental economic and social effects of the pandemic could last for years, both in this country and worldwide.

We might add, that in addition to returning to normal life for outside activities, work, and socializing, an end to the pandemic would also mean a safer environment for political action. Mass action is needed to win climate protection, immigrant and refugee rights, and union pay and benefits. The longer the pandemic and the fear of contagion lasts, the less power the working class has to fully exert itself politically and win its demands against an otherwise moribund Democratic Party establishment. Once life returns to more normal conditions, the ability of the mass protest movement to put pressure against the Biden administration can be redoubled.

Parallels to the abortion rights struggle

Women who have to make the difficult and emotional choice of getting an abortion have faced harassment and persecution at abortion clinics across the U.S. by anti-choice protesters. At times it has become necessary to physically defend these women from physical assault. This is in addition to the outright acts of terrorism against abortion clinics, and the attacks on abortion rights from the government, particularly from conservative capitalists exploiting the abortion wedge-issue.

Will it be necessary to form actionable defense committees for vaccine distribution too? Will the community need to band together to defend our right to good health? Time will tell.

It may be too hopeful to think that these events are merely minor blips on the radar and the reaction against medical science will ebb. The modern media landscape has introduced another pandemic—the pandemic of misinformation and sensationalism. This landscape has been exploited by the political parties, imperialist powers, the far right, and bog-standard grifters. The battle for truth, democracy, and science are one, and it is a battle the working class must take up in defense of its own right to exist in freedom and good health.

Photo: Protest against the lockdown at State Capitol in Sacramento, Calif., on April 20, 2020. (Josh Edelson / AFP / Getty Images)

Sources:

[1] https://losangeles.cbslocal.com/2021/01/31/vaccine-protest-los-angeles-dodger-stadium/

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/anti-vax-protests-temporarily-shut-down-dodger-stadium-vaccination-site/

Reports on the anti-healthcare protests

[2] https://www.politico.eu/article/dutch-rioters-set-fire-to-coronavirus-testing-center/

Dutch rioters burn down a testing facility

[3] https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2020-04-24/anti-vaccine-activists-latch-onto-coronavirus-to-bolster-their-movement

Anti-vaccination movement is getting new lease on life from COVID-19 pandemic

[4] https://www.cdc.gov/measles/cases-outbreaks.html

CDC on recent measles outbreaks in the U.S.

[5] https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/conversations/understanding-vacc-work.html

CDC explains vaccines

[6] https://www.thedenverchannel.com/news/national/coronavirus/fauci-says-worst-is-probably-still-ahead-80-85-needed-for-herd-immunity

Dr. Anthony Fauci estimates 80-85% immunity needed to beat pandemic.